Salt licks and seaweed and blackstrap molasses

Every day of the year our cows dine on a continuous buffet of organic salad. When the Waikato has had just the right amounts of rain and sunlight, these leaves are silky, dark green and sturdy. Over many years, Mum and Dad have developed an organic polyculture pasture that’s suited to our land. It’s constantly changing and is mainly made up of chicory, grasses, white and red clover, yarrow, lucerne and plantain. This diverse pasture benefits cow health and milk production, while also improving the soil.

As a supplement to pasture, we administer a few extra additions to the cows’ diet to make sure they are as healthy as they can be. Throughout the year, we lay out salt licks in recycled barrels cut in half in the ‘post-milk’ area. Like all animals, cows know what they need and can choose whether or not to consume the salt. We choose to give them Himalayan pink salt, as it has approximately 80 trace elements, has been claimed to boost fertility and milk production, and withstands being outside in the elements.

During autumn, winter and spring, or any time when cows are under stress, we create a brew of organic seaweed, which has a cocktail of essential minerals, vitamins and other nutrients. Seaweed has been proven to create clearer eyes, shinier coats, healthier feet and a general increase in animal health. The brew is distributed through pipes and pumped into the cows’ water troughs at a dilution that isn’t strong enough to taint the taste of the water.

In the milking stall, we feed the cows approximately 100ml of blackstrap molasses. Like sweets for us, we find our cows can easily eat too much. So, by using the stall’s front feeder, we can limit their intake. Molasses helps with milk production and general animal health; it improves fibre digestion and in summer reduces heat-related stresses.

For almost three years now, robots have milked our cows and we’ve found this technology frees us up to observe, monitor and stay ahead of animal health issues. The real-time data we collect allows us to constantly tinker with the cocktail of nutrients we’re providing them every day, to help them thrive. It’s essential to be responsive and proactive around animal health; we choose to farm our cows organically, as there’s no antibiotic ‘silver bullet’.